My weekdays here in Otavalo, Ecuador start either waking up as my sister comes into the room to get her school clothes, waking up as a fly dedicates its morning to buzzing around my head and landing on my face, or sleeping through my alarms and rushing to get to school on time. My first view on waking up is out my window, and on days like today, when it’s cloudy and rainy, it’s hard to convince myself to get out of bed on time. By the time I leave my room in the morning, my oldest sister has long since left for university, my youngest sister is starting class, and my dad is out on a run. My third sister is still asleep in her bed, making me jealous as I tiptoe past to the stairs. In the kitchen there are eggs, bread, and juice waiting from my mom. I eat quickly and walk out the front door, turn left, and walk the ten minutes to school. Days that I don’t have work, I usually end up with my family or at a cafe in the city center.
I used to work full time at a fair-trade social enterprise that employs artisans to make jewelry that is sold in the US, but now I work there in the afternoons and at a school for children with developmental disabilities in the mornings. When I get to school, I ring the bell and head straight to class as soon as the door is opened for me. I work with the youngest class, a group of eight students ranging from ages three to six. From eight to ten we sing songs, play games, and learn shapes, animals, morning routines, and many more things I somehow never learned to say in Spanish. At ten we have snack and then outdoor play time. At this point, the extent of my physical exercise is pushing kids on the teeter-totter when they can’t find a partner. After recess we have more class time, practicing anything from handwriting to identifying colors. I’ve also started English classes for the two youngest classes, which is a challenge in accommodating the varying capabilities of each student.
I leave the school around one, once all the students are picked up. Back at home, I do homework, read, or, more often than I should, check Facebook until my mom calls me down for lunch. Usually the whole family is home for lunch: my mom, dad, grandpa, and three sisters. The TV is usually on, playing telenovelas or Disney Channel. My home in Ecuador is far from the rural environment I used to picture when I thought of Ecuador. I listened to past fellows and imagined myself in a simple home, surrounded by farmland, with bucket showers and laundry washed in the river. Instead, I live in Otavalo, a ten minute walk to my favorite cafe, in a house with a washing machine and a hot shower and TVs in every room.
After lunch I head to Faire Collection for a few hours. The building I work in is a 15 minute walk along the highway, crossing over the river that changes color daily from dye runoff from the factor upstream. What I do at work changes daily, depending on who is there and how many upcoming orders we have. Some days I spend my three hours putting stickers on plastic bags, some days I work on interviews or photos for marketing projects, and some days I just do my own homework or play on my computer. By six, I’m exhausted and begin my walk home. In the evenings, I stay at home doing homework, making lesson plans, or watching TV with my family, or sometimes go out with friends for nachos or french fries at our favorite restaurant.